Hepatic changes in the failing Fontan circulation

Christoph H Kiesewetter, Nick Sheron, Joseph J Vettukattill, Nigel Hacking, Brian Stedman, Harry Millward-Sadler, Marcus Haw, Richard Cope, Anthony P Salmon, Muthukumaran C Sivaprakasam, Timothy Kendall, Barry R Keeton, John P Iredale, Gruschen R Veldtman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The failing Fontan circulation is associated with hepatic impairment. The nature of this liver injury is poorly defined.

OBJECTIVE: To establish the gross and histological liver changes of patients with Fontan circulation relative to clinical, biochemical and haemodynamic findings.

METHODS: Patients were retrospectively assessed for extracardiac Fontan conversion between September 2003 and June 2005, according to an established clinical protocol. Twelve patients, mean age 24.6 (range 15.8-43.4) years were identified. The mean duration since the initial Fontan procedure was 14.1 (range 6.9-26.4) years.

RESULTS: Zonal enhancement of the liver (4/12) on CT was more common in patients with lower hepatic vein pressures (p = 0.007), and in those with absent cardiac cirrhosis on histological examination (p = 0.033). Gastro-oesophageal varices (4/12) were more common in patients with higher hepatic vein pressure (21 (6.3) vs 12.2 (2.2) mm Hg, p = 0.013) and associated with more advanced cirrhosis (p = 0.037). The extent of cirrhosis (7/12) was positively correlated with the hepatic vein pressure (r = 0.83, p = 0.003). A significant positive correlation was found between the Fontan duration and the degree of hepatic fibrosis (r = 0.75, p = 0.013), as well as presence of broad scars (r = 0.71, p = 0.021). Protein-losing enteropathy (5/12) occurred more frequently in patients with longer Fontan duration (11.7 (3.2) vs 17.9 (6.1) years, p = 0.038).

CONCLUSIONS: Liver injury, which can be extensive in this patient group, is related to Fontan duration and hepatic vein pressures. CT scan assists non-invasive assessment. Cardiac cirrhosis with the risk of developing gastro-oesophageal varices and regenerative liver nodules, a precursor to hepatocellular carcinoma, is common in this patient group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-84
Number of pages6
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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